INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA -- Pastor Jim Thurston of the Indy Dream Center International Church and Outreach is taking steps that are not so easy take. He is reaching out to the homeless, the hurting, and the hungry on the streets of downtown Indianapolis who are not easily reached by local churches. He is spreading love of Jesus by bringing hope to these people, Christian World News reports.
One of the methods they use to reach out is through Night Strikes where a group of up to four head out to the downtown Indianapolis looking for the lost, discarded, and abandoned homeless people. Known as “The Dream Team” by the homeless people, they go out to the streets from 9:00p.m. to 3:00 a.m., armed with blankets, food, bottled water, socks and underwear, gloves, and flashlights.
“When we go out on Night Strikes, we don’t go preaching to them,” says Thurston, “We bring the love and compassion of Jesus to them. We meet their needs. We tell them, you’re the one Jesus died for.”
But the homeless didn’t always welcome them in the beginning. At first, they were skeptical. “They put walls up because people would come and give them things, promising to come back but never following through,” Thurston explains. “We go into it for the long-term,” he adds. “And we aren’t just trying to put a band-aid on it.”
By serving God and His people through this ministry, Thurston has experienced people transforming into a new life.
Thurston shares a story about a man who had been laid off from his job at a large medical device company who would always be intoxicated. He even developed pancreatitis and couldn’t maintain his health because he couldn’t eat. However through the outreach of the Dream Center, he asked for God’s forgiveness and is now coming to church.
Another story involves a 71-year old woman known as “Mom” who had been living on the street for five years. Also known on the streets as mean old woman, she could be seen pushing a shopping cart everywhere she went and wearing layer upon layer of clothes to stay warm. After ministering to her physical needs, she now attends church and is off the streets, Christian World News reports.
To the question of how the homeless people became homeless, Thurston explains giving two reasons – because of low income and the inability to find a place to live.
According to Thurston, 55 percent are homeless because of low income and 30 percent because of a loss of job. Also interestingly not all homeless people are uneducated. Thurston has met a number of people with advanced degrees and some who have been recipients of athletic scholarships. These are people who, at one time or another, have been a part of making mistakes, wrong decisions, and doing things that later they regretted.
Even before becoming a pastor, Thurston knew that he wanted to be the kind of pastor that goes out to the people – wherever they may be. “Jesus left his world to come to our world,” he says. “We tell our people that we have to leave our comfort zone.” Being an ex-felon himself before becoming a pastor, he helped 12 ex-felons get a job to help with their life transition after he became one.
The vision for the Indy Dream Center came out from Thurston’s association with the Assemblies of God and his participation on a work team for the Los Angeles Dream Center, the first Dream Center which got started in the mid-1980s by Pastor Tommy Barnett. Starting in the two-car garage, the Indy Dream Center has now moved into a building of its own. Thurston believes God’s vision for this ministry is big and he hopes to have a Discipleship Center where people could receive training, addiction counseling, and actually live and work there. Thurston and his wife are also dreaming of an ice cream ministry where they would distribute free ice cream to the inner city youth. The ice cream will be donated by Great Northern Treats.